How do you prepare yourself to be the victim of a crime?
Despite the fact that we know crime occurs daily around us, we all live in our own bubbles of comfort, swaddled in the naïve belief that “those things can’t happen to me.” Stories of violence, theft, and deception are so pervasive in our culture that they become mundane and we end up tuning them out.
“Surely those are the things that happen to other people, people who live in the bad neighborhoods, are careless with their possessions, have different thoughts and values than I do.” We tell ourselves these lies, I believe, because it’s easier to live in a happy, comforting bubble than to constantly be afraid of the bad things that could happen to us.
That is, until someone bursts our bubble.
My sense of security eroded about three weeks ago when on a Friday afternoon I came home to find that my apartment had been burglarized. I walked into the place I’ve called home for more than a year and discovered clothes strewn on the bedroom floor, drawers and cabinets ajar, ripped boxes that once held wedding rings (which luckily were on our fingers) lying in front of an open filing cabinet, and empty spaces that were occupied by our possessions just hours earlier.
After the initial shock wore off, the realization began to set in that not only were our things taken, but there had been people in our home, rummaging through our things, taking what they pleased, seeing photos of us staring back at them, and they could not have cared less how it would affect us.
It didn’t matter to these people that the watch they stole was a wedding present from me to my husband, or that I’d spent hours sewing that signed Matt Ryan jersey into its shadowbox frame on the wall, or that my five-year-old MacBook contained the only original copies of our honeymoon photos. They saw dollar signs where I saw memories.
In the time it took them to gather up our most valuable possessions, they stole not only our things but our memories, and our bubble of naivety. They took from us our sense of security, our feeling that we had a place to come home to where we could set down the baggage from the day at the door and forget about it for awhile. The worst part of the experience is that there are so few burglaries that end up as arrests, the chances these people will do this again – either to us or to someone else – are astronomical.
The police said it could have been kids who live in our apartment complex who randomly chose us, or someone who watched our daily routines, or any number of scenarios. They don’t know until they catch them … if they catch them.
So, how do you prepare yourself for something you’ve told yourself can’t – or won’t – happen to you? Based on my recent experience, here are five things you can do to make the process only slightly less painful if you’re unlucky enough to become a victim of such a crime:
- Purchase insurance: This is the easiest way to protect yourself. My husband and I never had renter’s insurance until we moved into our current apartment, and even though dealing with an insurance company is a whole different can of worms, we’re at least going to be able to get much of our replaceable items back … eventually. (Also, you should purchase separate insurance for your valuable jewelry. Most renter’s or homeowner’s insurance will only cover jewelry up to a certain amount.)
- Keep a running log of all serial numbers, model numbers, etc. of electronics: The first thing the police officer asked us when we told him both our MacBooks were stolen was, “Do you have serial numbers?” We both looked at each other with deer caught in headlights looks. Luckily, Apple keeps that information on file and we were able to get it, but it’s a lot easier to just go ahead and have this stored somewhere safely ahead of time. Be as detailed as possible when you make this list. Include model numbers, color, any additional hardware or software you have on your machine, and any accessories that may be snatched up with the item (an expensive camera case, for instance).
- Invest in an alarm system: Unfortunately we don’t have this option at our apartment complex, but many do. If you’re in a home, or thinking about buying one in the future – go ahead and include this in your upfront costs. A loud alarm draws attention, and that’s the last thing a criminal wants while they’re trying to commit a crime.
- Get to know your neighbors: We should all look out for each other, but it’s not always easy if you don’t know who belongs and who doesn’t. None of our neighbors were home during the time our break-in occurred, but if they had been and they’d seen people other than us carting items out of our front door, I’d hope they’d let someone know.
- Wipe the dust off your bubble: Don’t burst it unless someone else does that for you, but wipe off the dust from time to time and make sure you can clearly see what’s outside. Stay alert and take notice of things that may seem off. I can’t say whether someone was watching our routines or not, but I can say that I look a little bit more closely now. We need our bubbles, but we also need to see that there is a world waiting outside of them, ready to burst it without a moment’s notice.